The Nashville Predators reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 and the Western Conference Second Round last season, but this season they failed to get past the first round, losing in six games to the Dallas Stars.
The Predators won the Central Division for the second consecutive season but never seemed to find their top level and were eliminated when Stars defenseman John Klingberg scored 17:02 into overtime to eliminate them 2-1 in Game 6 of the best-of-7 series on Monday.
Here are 5 reasons the Predators were eliminated:
1. Top line scoring drought
Nashville's top line of Filip Forsberg (one goal, one assist), Ryan Johansen (one goal, one assist) and Viktor Arvidsson (zero points) combined for four points against Dallas.
That disappointing result came after Arvidsson set a Predators record with 34 goals in the regular season and Johansen had an NHL career-high 64 points (14 goals, 50 assists). Predators coach Peter Laviolette split the top line in the third period of Game 6 to try to get something going offensively, but they were unable to break through.
"We knew it was going to be tough and we knew this series was going to be like it as well," Laviolette said. "[The Stars] are one of the top defensive teams in the League. They're top three, and we're right there as well. That makes it tight, and both teams have good goaltenders. We knew it was going to be difficult to score. At the end of the day, we could have used one more."
Video: Stars finish off Predators in six games to advance
2. Ineffective power play
The Predators were last in the NHL on the power play during the regular season (12.9 percent). They did not improve during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Nashville went 0-for-15 on the power play and struggled to gain any momentum off its chances. The Predators were the only team in the first round not to score a goal on the power play.
"I don't know," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. "We had a lot of meetings, we tried working on it, we kept working on it, and for some reason we didn't execute on the power play. I'm part of the power play, so I take full responsibility for that. It's a huge part and you saw it in the playoffs."
3. Secondary scoring struggles
With the top line struggling, the Predators didn't get much offense from their forward group outside of Rocco Grimaldi, who scored three goals in five games.
No other Nashville forward scored more than one goal in the series. Dallas largely was effective at keeping Nashville from getting to the middle of the ice and creating high-quality scoring chances.
"They did it during the regular season too, but they did such a good job of defending and tight-checking," Predators forward Austin Watson said. "I don't know what it was, [the Stars were] second or third in the League in goals-against. They made it hard on us. Full credit to that group over there. Their top guys, [forward Jamie] Benn, [center Tyler] Seguin, [forward Alexander] Radulov, their young [defensemen], they had a heck of a series. You know, right now it's tough to swallow."
Video: Stars win Game 6 in OT to advance
4. No answer for Stars top line
Dallas coach Jim Montgomery made an adjustment in the series, beginning situationally in Game 2, when he put Benn, Seguin and Radulov on the same line. They combined for 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in the series.
That top line particularly was impactful during a 5-3 win in Game 5 at Nashville when it combined for seven points (three goals, four assists) and helped the Stars take a 3-2 series lead.
5. No more mystique at home
The Predators went 9-2 at Bridgestone Arena during the run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. They have not been as successful at home during the playoffs since then.
Including losses in two of three games at home against the Stars, the Predators are 4-6 at home during the playoffs the past two seasons.
Video: NSH@DAL, Gm6: Stars, Predators exchange handshakes